Feasting Famously with Emily Hines
Private Affairs Director of DC’s New Members Only Hot-Spot, Sidecar
As non-pretentious and seemingly unassuming as they come, Emily Hines looks like the out-of-your-league girl next door on first meeting. However, a few short sentences into a conversation and you not only realize how nice and charming she actually is; but that she is very knowledgeable about her craft and really doesn’t have time for your B.S.
Taking the helm of the New York based P.J. Clarke’s upscale basement restaurant and bar Sidecar, Emily (along with a great staff) is helping mold this iconic restaurant into a place District residents can call their own. Differing from the upstairs restaurant, Sidecar (accessible now only by the swipe of a member’s card) boasts leather wrapped booths, white table clothes, rich wood walls, historic pictures and paintings of America’s past, and a large bar – giving it a very unique and private feel that is quintessential to Washington, DC.
I ask Emily what makes Sidecar different than the standard dining room at P.J. Clarke’s? “It’s a little quieter, a little more fine dining, and provides a personal touch for our Member’s and our guests,” she says. “It was really the Members who wanted Sidecar to go private. I actually think the concept of a Members only dining room holds very strong here in DC, where people are looking for that type of space. It’s the old school boys club feel that were definitely a hit in this city.”
Walk down the stairs to Sidecar just once and you know exactly what Emily means. It really does feel like you are descending into a time period where painstaking care was taken to make a public establishment feel comfortable, to feel like something you would have built for yourself. Sidecar certainly makes one feel very comfortable right off the bat. “We try to make it like your own living room away from home,” Emily says, and with the perks for Members, she is certainly standing behind her word.
In addition to preferential tables, Members can call before 10:00pm and they will keep the Sidecar dining room, kitchen, and bar open for 30-60 of your friends, or just you and another person, or, just you in fact. And that is the special type of guest treatment you don’t find elsewhere these days. Further, Members can request special menu items, and request specific bottles of alcohol be kept in stock for when they need to quench their thirst.
Beyond the ambiance, which is out of this world, is the food. Emily likes Sidecar’s eggs benedict, but recommends for a first timer, a burger. “We’re known for our burgers,” she claims. “The Cadillac burger has been on the menu forever. American cheese and bacon – you can’t go wrong.” How many times have you dreamed a girl would say that to you? Not in the mood for a burger, treat yourself to something uniquely Southern. Emily says, and I can support from experience, “the deviled eggs are very good and that’s something that is not on the New York menus.”
When she’s not keeping Sidecar running smoothly, she does like to cook and entertain. She excitingly says, “I love to cook, it’s definitely a hobby of mine. I’m obsessed with Barefoot Contessa [referring to Chef Ina Garten], so anything in her cookbook is a favorite of mine.”
Being true to the all-American-girl vibe that you very much get from spending time with Emily, she likes classic American comfort food. “Over Christmas I made lobster macaroni and cheese,” she says proudly. But don’t think she’s flying by the seat of her pants like some avant garde kitchen hippie. No, no; she follows recipes to a T! However, despite her no-thrills cooking style – she isn’t one for fancy kitchen gadgets, think more cake stands and antique serving wear – one should not mistake this for being uptight. When Emily Hines hosts a dinner party, of which she does often, don’t expect fancy cooking. “One tip I’d give when hosting a dinner party is that nobody wants fancy items. I think they’d rather socialize and have you be part of the party than have you slave away in the kitchen making something that’s incredibly time consuming.”
They’d rather socialize and have you be part of the party.
Yeah, so there fancy home cooks! Not really. However I think this general premise of having fun and staying true to yourself, while at the same time not cutting corners and not feeling the need to show off excessively, but produce a really simple, really good product, is indicative of P.J. Clarke’s and Sidecar.
They do several things well and have for over 130 years. They take pride in their craftsmanship and décor, without being pretentious or over-the-top. Customer service and making people feel comfortable is very important to them and has served as a business model, a very successful business model, for a very long time. In a way, Emily Hines is a perfect embodiment of what Sidecar is, and P.J. Clarke’s always has been – and we’re lucky to have her at the helm and here in DC.
Oh, and yes, I am a Member of Sidecar…in fact; I’m heading there right now. I hope my Pernod is chilled.